Ukrainian doctors in N.L. who fled the war say they are frustrated with province

Click to play video: 'Number of ER closures expected to get worse before it gets better'
Number of ER closures expected to get worse before it gets better
Emergency room closures in Nova Scotia continue to be driven by a nurse and doctor shortage, and it’s expected to get worse before it gets better. Jesse Thomas has more. – Oct 25, 2021

A physician who fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine and arrived in Newfoundland last month says she’s frustrated by a lack of communication from the provincial government — and she’s not the only one.

Maryna Sikorska said in a recent interview she is eager to work as a general physician in St. John’s. But she said that until Sunday night, her emails to the province asking for help went unanswered.

Sikorska said she knows four other physicians and one nurse from her country who have relocated to Newfoundland and feel equally stymied by a lack of communication from the government. By contrast, she points to Nova Scotia’s Health Department, which is actively recruiting Ukrainian health-care professionals _ including those in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Story continues below advertisement

“I don’t want to go from Newfoundland, I like this place,” she said.

“I like these people and I want to help them, but I can’t. And it’s broken my heart, really.”

Newfoundland and Labrador has worked hard to attract Ukrainians leaving their country amid attacks from the Russian army. The government established a satellite office in Warsaw, Poland, to help Ukrainians resettle in the province, and it chartered two flights from Poland to St. John’s, each carrying more than 150 Ukrainians.

Sikorska arrived on June 14 with her husband and three children.

Before that, she had been a general practitioner for eight years in Kyiv, where she opened a medical centre. She also taught pediatrics at Ukraine’s military medical academy, she said.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.
Receive the latest medical news and health information delivered to you every Sunday.

Get weekly health news

Receive the latest medical news and health information delivered to you every Sunday.
By providing your email address, you have read and agree to Global News' Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Sikorska said she understands she will have to retrain and write exams to become licensed in Newfoundland and Labrador. But there are ways the province might be able to help or speed up that process, she said, noting that even providing translated forms and certification information would help.

“They said that they need doctors, that the people don’t have family doctors,” she said of the provincial representatives she spoke to before she moved to St. John’s.

Click to play video: 'MLA hopeful changes coming for program attracting doctors, nurses to rural Nova Scotia'
MLA hopeful changes coming for program attracting doctors, nurses to rural Nova Scotia

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s Health Department has contacted Ukrainian physicians in Newfoundland to offer perks like housing and daycare if they relocate to that province, Michael Holden, who helps Ukrainians settle in Newfoundland, said in an interview Monday.

Story continues below advertisement

Nova Scotia also launched an online portal in late June to help pair Ukrainian health-care workers with jobs. Khalehla Perrault, a Department of Health and Wellness spokeswoman, said in an email Monday that no one has yet been matched with a job through the system; however, “multiple health-care providers” are working with all those who applied.

Holden said he’s part of a group chat that includes 10 Ukrainian doctors who are frustrated with the provincial government. Two local doctors who are also part of the group say they are ready to help Ukrainian physicians study for medical licensing exams, he said.

“We do not want frustrated Ukrainian doctors here in Newfoundland,” Holden said. “We should be rolling out the red carpet for them.”

Holden said doctors are desperately needed in the province. Newfoundland and Labrador’s medical association released a poll last month showing that nearly one in four residents are without a family physician.

He created a widely shared social media post Sunday about a frustrated Ukrainian doctor, which prompted a response from Tom Osborne, the province’s new health minister, who urged Ukrainian doctors to contact his office or the office of Premier Andrew Furey directly.

Holden said he then sent his list of doctors to Osborne, who began emailing each of them. Osborne also offered to set up a meeting with the physicians, he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Next, Holden said he would like to see the province offer the same kinds of supports to these doctors that they can get in Nova Scotia, as they study for the difficult exams they must pass in order to practise in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I want to see a level playing field between provinces,” he said.

Osborne’s office was unable to provide a response or an interview Monday.

Sikorska received an email from Osborne Sunday night, after forwarding his office an email she had sent to the premier’s office on July 7. Osborne’s email thanked her for her note and said his staff would be in contact with her soon.

“We’ll see,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2022.

Sponsored content